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Like It Was a Movie: Cinematic Listening as Public Art


  • Betsey Biggs

    (Princeton University)


The widespread use of personal stereos has created large numbers of listeners navigating the city in reverie, enjoying a synaesthetic relationship between what they see and the music they hear. Such sonic mediation to the body's experience has been described, and analyzed, as a form of 'physical cinema.' But how does this cinema work? And how might sound artists use these kinds of auditory interventions as sites for their own work? This current situation offers rich opportunities for artists to take advantage of the nonchalance with which the public now synthesizes disparate sonic and visual sources into complete, and very individual, filmic experiences. By analyzing the relationships among mediated sound, ambient sound and visual environment in a number of sound works situated in the public sphere (among them works by Janet Cardiff and Christina Kubisch), this paper aims to discover how sound artists might use the idea of "physical cinema" to broaden the audience's sensory spectrum and seduce them into creative engagement with their environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Betsey Biggs, 2008. "Like It Was a Movie: Cinematic Listening as Public Art," Working Papers 1102, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cpanda:36

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    Cited by:

    1. Allan Watson & Dominiqua Drakeford-Allen, 2016. "‘Tuning Out' or ‘Tuning in'? Mobile Music Listening and Intensified Encounters with the City," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(5), pages 1036-1043, September.

    More about this item


    Film; Motion Pictures;

    JEL classification:

    • Z11 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economics of the Arts and Literature
    • L82 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Entertainment; Media


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